Unintentionally Brilliant Entrepreneurial Decisions

I started writing this post a few months ago.  I'm wrapping up the draft tonight as a part of an effort to pick up the pace on The Boggs Blog.  I've been reading lots of good stuff from David Cummings, Chris Dixon, and others - so I feel compelled to offer my humble $.02 to the start-up blog echo chamber.


There are hundreds of highly influential inputs that factor into the "successful start-up" equation:  Can you build a product?  Can you build a team?  Will the dogs eat the dog food?  And so on.  

Founders face many challenging hurdles to jump and decisions to make in the very early days of a company.  And there are lots of blog posts about start-up advice that cover most of these issues.  But I haven't read as much about the underlying life decisions that put the founder in a position to start the company and address the issues in the first place.

Here are a few decisions that Kelly and I have made over the years that (somewhat unintentionally) put me in a position to start a start-up in Jan 2010:

Managing Debt

Kelly and I bought our first house in 2004 - back when redongo loans were the norm.  I was 23 and Kelly was 24 and neither of us made much money, but we were "approved" for a significant loan.  Thank goodness we were smart enough to realize that spending $300k on our first house was a bad idea.

Instead, we bought a very modest starter home in a nice neighborhood.  We still live in it and probably will for a while.  A brilliant decision

Managing Burn

Our personal monthly burn rate is minuscule.  Our mortgage is less than $800 per month.  We own Kelly's car and my truck out right - so no car payment.  My monthly student loan payment from business school is the equivalent of a small car payment.

If we were paying $1500 per month on a mortgage and another several hundred dollars per month on a car, then there is no way that I could have gone as long as I have without a market salary.  And if I *had* to work full-time to make ends meet, then there was no way that I could have started Argyle.

Simply put, your ability to start a company directly correlates with your ability to not get paid.

Working at a Start-Up

My first "real" job was at a start-up - I spent 4 years helping a company grow from a handful of employees and customers to 40+ employees and hundreds of customers by the time I left to go to business school.  I didn't realize it at the time, but I was working an apprenticeship that would pay enormous dividends later on.  Because my prior start-up experience, I've been able to loosely execute a well-known playbook at Argyle.  This is my first time as a CEO, but not my first rodeo.  Makes a huge difference.